October 26, 2017 / Press Releases

What the Jane Doe case tells us about the anti-choice movement



TO: Interested Parties
FROM: Ellen Langford, NARAL Pro-Choice America Opposition Research Director
RE: What the Jane Doe case tells us about the anti-choice movement

Over the last few weeks, the case of Jane Doe in Texas has received nationwide attention. And while the case may be effectively closed, it is important to take a closer look at what this case symbolizes for women and families in the Trump era.
It is clear that leaders of the anti-choice movement, and their partners in the Trump administration, want to ban abortion for all women. Look no further than their statements and the legislation in Congress that bans abortion before a woman knows she is pregnant – effectively an outright ban on abortion.

Trump HHS Appointee and Former Americans United for Life President Charmaine Yoest Doesn’t Want “To Make Abortion Safer. She Wants To Make The Procedure Illegal.” From the New York Times: “Yoest’s end goal isn’t to make abortion safer. She wants to make the procedure illegal. She leaves no room for exceptions in the case of rape or incest or to preserve the health of the mother. She believes that embryos have legal rights and opposes birth control, like the IUD, that she thinks ‘has life-ending properties.’” [New York Times, 11/2/12]

House GOP and Senate GOP Have Introduced Abortion Bans In 2017, One Even Banning Abortion Before A Woman Knows She Is Pregnant. [CNN, 10/3/17; Refinery29, 10/25/17]

SBA List Aims To “Reduce And Ultimately End Abortion.” “The Susan B. Anthony List, and its connected Political Action Committee, the SBA List Candidate Fund, are dedicated to electing candidates and pursuing policies that will reduce and ultimately end abortion. To that end, the SBA List will emphasize the election, education, promotion, and mobilization of pro-life women.” [SBA-List.org, 8/13/12]

During The Campaign, Trump Made Numerous Commitments To The Anti-Choice Movement. In a letter to anti-choice activists during the 2016 campaign Trump wrote: “I am committed to: Nominating pro-life justices to the U.S. Supreme Court. Signing into law the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would end painful late-term abortions nationwide. Defunding Planned Parenthood as long as they continue to perform abortions, and reallocating their funding to community health centers that provide comprehensive healthcare for women. Making the Hyde Amendment permanent law to protect taxpayers from having to pay for abortions…Together we can form this vital coalition so that Mike Pence and I can be advocates for the unborn and their mothers every day we are in the White House.” [Trump Campaign Letter, September 2016, via SBA List]

  • Anti-Choice Leader Penny Nance: “The President Has Surpassed Everyone’s Expectations…He’s Earned Our Trust.” In two emails to supporters, Nance celebrated Trump’s efforts to select anti-choice judicial nominees and to promote anti-choice priorities such as undermining the Affordable Care Act and defunding Planned Parenthood.  She wrote: “Friend, I’m encouraged how the Trump Administration has taken positive steps in the persistence for faith, family, and freedom. In the first six months of his term, the president has…Stood for the most vulnerable by ensuring the healthcare bill is fully pro-life. [Concerned Women for America email, 8/3/17, accessed 10/25/17; Concerned Women for America email, 5/3/17, accessed 10/25/17]


They know that’s not possible – yet – so they focus their efforts on restricting abortion access for the most vulnerable women. Here’s how they’ve done it in the past, and how that’s impacted women across the country.

Parental involvement laws often endanger the young women by increasing the possibility of illegal and self-induced abortion, family violence, suicide, later abortions, and unwanted childbirth. [NARAL, 1/1/17]

NEBRASKA: Anti-choice Organization Americans United for Life (AUL) Had Helped Draft Nebraska’s Parental Consent Law. Then-president of AUL, Charmaine Yoest, said it was “the right thing to do for Nebraska’s young girls and their families.” AUL again advocated for the restrictions when legislation to overturn them was proposed in 2014, tweeting: “Yesterday we testified against a #Nebraska bill (#LB1109) which would repeal parental consent for #abortion.”

[Life News, 5/26/11; Twitter.com,  2/28/14]

As A Result of Nebraska’s Parental Consent Law, The Nebraska Supreme Court Forced A Sixteen-Year Old Girl In Foster Care To Remain Pregnant Against Her Will Because She “Was Not Mature Enough To Make The Decision [About Abortion] Herself.” The girl, known as “Anonymous 5,” was a ward of the state living in a foster home with religious parents who opposed abortion. Mother Jones reported that “the court’s ability to force the teen… to carry her unwanted child to term is a direct result of state’s 2011 parental consent law.” [Mother Jones, 10/8/13, ABC News, 10/9/13]

Anti-Choice Advocacy Group Live Action Responded To The Court Decision: “Smart decision by the Nebraska Supreme Court on parental consent.” [Twitter.com, 10/8/13]

ALABAMA: Anti-Choice Groups Have Supported And Defended Alabama’s Parental Consent Law. Alabama passed a law in 1987 allowing “minors to obtain a court order to bypass” the requirement for parental consent before an abortion. Anti-choice outlet LifeNews also argued that “parental consent laws such as the one in Alabama help protect unborn babies and young mothers” and Americans United for Life said the Alabama parental consent law “protected young mothers and unborn babies.” When part of the law was struck down, Father Frank Pavone of Priests of Life defended the original measure:  “Alabama recognizes that when a minor seeks a court waiver to have an abortion without her parents’ knowledge or consent, the interests of the baby about to be killed deserve consideration as well… Tragically, a federal judge sides with the abortion industry in treating the baby about to be killed as nothing.” [LifeNews.com, 7/31/17; Twitter.com, 8/2/17, Priests for Life, 8/2/17; NPR, 8/1/17]

But The Law Allowed An Alabama Judge To Deny A Girl’s Petition For An Abortion Citing The Fact That She Became Pregnant Despite Sex Education In School. The judge stated the girl’s “action in becoming pregnant in light of sex education in the schools and the extreme amount of publicity about teen pregnancy is indicative that she has not acted in a mature and well informed manner.”  [Advocates for Youth, accessed 10/15/17]

Another Judge In Alabama Denied A Girl’s Request For A Petition To Bypass The Parental Consent Law, Claiming She Was Denying The Petition For The Girl’s Own Good. The judge wrote, “I’m a mother.  These people are interested in one thing, it appears to me, and that is getting this young lady’s money…This is a beautiful young girl with a bright future, and she does not need to have a butcher get ahold of her.” The girl had talked to six people about abortion—“ a woman who’d had an abortion, a family friend, two nurses, and staffers at Planned Parenthood and the local health department” in order to meet the state’s requirement that “minors be well informed” about abortion. [Mother Jones, September/October 2014 Issues, The New Yorker, 4/3/17]

Abortion bans interfere with a woman’s ability to make the decision that is best for herself and her family, and often come into play under heartbreaking circumstances surrounding a pregnancy or when a woman’s health is at risk. These bans also criminalize doctors for the care they provide. [NARAL, accessed 10/26/17]

TEXAS: 20-Week Ban “Is The Latest In A series Of Extreme Copy-Cat Anti-Abortion Measures Sweeping States Nationwide.” According to Rolling Stone the legislation was part of an effort by “national organizations like Americans United for Life and the Susan B. Anthony List have armed themselves with model legislation and launched a crusade to regulate abortion out of existence, while simultaneously teeing up a direct legal challenge to the 40-year precedent of Roe v. Wade.” [Rolling Stone, 6/26/13]

Texas House Bill 2 Used Americans United for Life Model Language, Was Enacted “With The Help Of AUL Experts” And Praised By Susan B. Anthony List. According to AUL’s own website, Texas House Bill 2 was “based, in part, on AUL model language” and the legislation was enacted “with the help of AUL experts.” Then-Texas Gov. Rick Perry said, “AUL plays a key role in developing and promoting legislation” like HB2. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry thanked AUL in the introduction to their “Defending Life” book, saying they were crucial to the passage of HB2. Susan B. Anthony List supported HB2, delivering over 20,000 signatures to the Texas legislature in support of the bill. Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of SBA List, said “we applaud Governor Perry and the pro-life Texas state legislators who have been working tirelessly, for passing the 20 week ban in Texas, which was “another step towards protecting an entire class of unborn children.”  [AUL.org, March 2014, AUL.org, 2015; AUL.org, 6/9/15, Susan B. Anthony List, 7/10/30]

As a Result Of The Abortion Ban in Texas, “Texas Forced This Woman To Deliver A Stillborn Baby” According to the Daily Beast. The Daily Beast reported, “Daniel and Taylor Mahaffey were 20 weeks pregnant and desperately wanted their child, but when doctors informed them a complication meant the fetus had no chance of survival, they just wanted their baby’s suffering to end. Yet because of their state’s ‘fetal pain’ law, the married Texans say they were forced to endure a stillbirth and wait as their baby slowly died in utero.” When Taylor went into premature labor, doctors said nothing could stop her labor or allow the baby to survive outside of the womb; however, “because of Texas law HB2, they could not help speed Taylor’s labor. Technically, the baby was healthy and the mother was healthy, so to induce labor would be an abortion, and to do it at this stage in the pregnancy would be illegal.” Taylor was sent home from the hospital “to wait for their baby to die or for Taylor’s labor to progress.” Daniel worried “his wife would hemorrhage while Taylor could feel the baby struggling inside of her.” [The Daily Beast, 3/31/16]

Anti-Choice Groups Opposed Jane Doe Receiving An Abortion While In Government Custody,  Claiming Her Case Would Lead To An Unwanted Expansion of Abortion Access In The U.S.  Jane Doe was a 17-year old undocumented immigrant from Central America who sought to have an abortion. However, Doe was being held by the Office of Refugee Resettlement in Texas, which would not allow her to access an abortion, leading to a lawsuit from the ACLU. Concerned Women for America claimed the Jane Doe Case meant “free abortions for undocumented minors” and that “This is a new frontier for abortion activists in which the federal government essentially becomes UberAbortion.” Susan B. Anthony list tweeted, “This Lawsuit Is @ACLU’s ploy to turn 1 of the most #ProLife states in the U.S. into a sanctuary state for abortion. Live Action tweeted, “Abortion supporters are pushing for free abortions, at any time, for any reason, for illegal immigrants.” [Twitter.com, 10/19/17, Twitter.com, 10/19/17, Susan B. Anthony List, 10/18/17, ACLU, 10/19/17]


The Jane Doe case put the anti-choice movement’s work against women’s constitutional rights into focus. But it also made clear that they view the court system as a means to a total abortion ban. The GOP is pushing to reshape the judicial system, from the Supreme Court down to the lower courts, in Donald Trump’s image in order to score ideological wins that will turn our country backwards.

Tony Perkins, President Of Family Research Council, Drew The Connection Between The Jane Doe Case And Conservatives’ Focus On Judicial Nominees. He  tweeted: “If you’re wondering why conservatives are making such a big deal about the president’s judicial nominees, look no further than this case’ along with an article about the case.  [Twitter.com, 10/19/17]

Trump Has Consistently Chosen Anti-Choice Judicial Nominees. As University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias observed, “Trump’s speed in nominating judges has been perhaps the most successful aspect of his presidency…Trump has easily surpassed Obama, Bush and Clinton at this point in the first year of their presidencies in terms of the sheer number nominated.” And as has widely been reported, these nominees have been “terrible for abortion rights.” [The Huffington Post, 10/7/17; Rewire, 8/8/17; Rewire, 9/8/17; Politico 6/14/17]

  • Trump Thanked Anti-Choice Leaders For Their “Help” In Confirming Neil Gorsuch. In a letter to Concerned Women for America President Penny Nance, he said “I genuinely appreciate the important work of Concerned Women for America.” [Concerned Women for America email, 5/3/17, accessed 10/25/17]

Anti-Choice Leader Penny Nance: “Trump Has Earned Our Trust On Judges.” In an email to supporters that celebrated Justice Neil Gorsuch’s nomination as “stupendous,” Nance argued: “he’s not the only good judicial appointment President Trumps has made. To his credit, the president has surpassed everyone’s expectations. From Judge Amul Thapar and John Bush to the 6th Circuit to the excellent appointment of Judge Kevin Newsom to the 11th Circuit, President Trump has been disciplined and focused on the appointment of judges, and he should be praised for it. [Concerned Women for America email, 5/3/17, accessed 10/25/17]

NARAL Pro-Choice America and its network of state affiliates are dedicated to protecting and expanding reproductive freedom for all Americans. NARAL works to guarantee that every woman has the right to make personal decisions regarding the full range of reproductive choices, including preventing unintended pregnancy, bearing healthy children, and choosing legal abortion. In recognition of its work defending our constitutional right to choose, Fortune Magazine described NARAL as “one of the top 10 advocacy groups in America.”


Everyone should be able to decide if, when, how, and with whom they start or grow a family.

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